Sunday, May 21, 2017

Permission to live with Jesus and Further decline

As I walk into the Memory Care Unit where my husband Gary lives, I never know what to expect.  Today, he was sitting in the living room with his wheelchair buddy Nancy.  She was holding a doll with the care a mother gives her newborn.  Instinct is amazing.

Gary was sitting next to her with eyes wide but no recognition of what was happening around him.  The Unit Manager greeted me and we discussed some of my personal medical issues and then the subject turned to Gary.  She does not read this blog so I told her about the visit to the Funeral Home.  We talked about a potential roommate that might be living with Gary soon.  She gave me a bag of clothes to take home that don't fit Gary with his diapers.  I also decided to gather his bongos and an unused water bottle. Those items are no longer used due to his decline.

I sat with him and held his hand and arm for quite some time.  He was constantly whispering but I could decipher nothing.  When I looked in his eyes, he stopped whispering and stared at me.  No emotion, no hint of cognitive activity.  He would bat his eyes once in a while.  I touched his arm and told him that I know he hates living the way he is and that if he wants to go live with Jesus it would be okay with me.  There, I said it.  I told him I would be alright and that I would miss him.  I said, "You can stay as long as you like (choked up) but I will understand if you leave." 

I don't recall other than my wedding vows, speaking more important words.

After sitting quietly for a few moments, I trimmed his moustache and beard and left. 

I ran some errands and came home.  The kids were watching "Ghostbusters" so I watched for a while until a good friend called.  We chatted about random things and today, he did not ask about Gary.  Everyone assumes status quo.

Later in the evening, after a drink or two, the phone rang.  Caller ID displayed "SUNRISE".  Oh hell.....that always puts a lump in my throat.  The Unit Manager promptly started with "there is nothing wrong."  That is always comforting.  However, what they really mean is that there is no current, immediate life and death situation despite the fact that your loved one has a terminal illness.

She proceeded to tell me that they are taking Gary to a new level or personal care since he can no longer assist in transferring himself.  Despite being in a wheelchair, he has been able to stand for short periods of time to assist in moving to the wheelchair, shower, etc.  He can no longer do this so they will use a lift from now on.  Otherwise, it takes three caregivers to move him. 

Further decline.  I thanked her, hung up the phone and became overwhelmed with tears.  I cried for hours.  Sobbed, heaved and cried.  Sobbed.  Then, as quickly as it started, it stopped and I slept.  I hint of the future.

Today, I am going to church and to our University's annual Commencement Ceremony.  Some normalcy seems really good right now.

Monday, May 15, 2017

"That is the good stuff."

Most of my visits to Gary, unless very well timed are spent watching him sleep...or so he acts.....I think sometimes he is wide awake with his eyes closed.

I try to get to him at mealtime so I can feed him and he usually opens his eyes.  On Saturday, I was feeding him Broccoli soup and he whispered something.  In the past, once he says a thought, it does not get repeated.  This time I put my ear to his mouth and asked him what he said.  He quietly whispered "That is the good stuff."  That is a phrase he used for years when he liked something. Just as quickly, he slipped back to wherever he stays now in his mind. He finished all his food.  He usually does.  He is still swallowing.

Sunday was Mother's Day so I knew there would be lots of activity at "The Happy Place".  When I walked in one of the caregivers pointed me in his direction.  He was sitting in a different place than normal.  He was in the quiet room, covered in a blanket sound asleep.  (See above picture). I sat with him and held his hand for about 20 minutes and it was time for lunch.  We placed him in position at his table with Martha and Nancy. 

Martha was holding a doll while she ate her lunch.  I watched her scoop up applesauce and give the baby a bite and then took a bite herself.  The doll's mouth soon filled with applesauce.  One of the caregivers noticed and with no emotion or excitement told Martha, " Martha, the baby is full.  Let me put her in the crib and feed her a bottle.  Its time for you to eat yourself.  You are a very good mother." This act of kindness choked me though the whole situation was somewhat funny. 

Nancy was also holding a doll but is unable to feed herself so I guess her baby would go hungry that day.  Instead, she reached over and tried to pick up Gary's sandwich. I discouraged her and distracted her with the doll while I fed Gary.

I know that I loved the man who was.  My close friends think that I will "lose it" when he dies. I guess we will find out soon enough.  I hope they are all wrong.

Here is a shot of Gary when he was still clear.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Fiberboard versus Metal Caskets....

Making Cremation arrangements should not be funny. But, it was this week. With Gary's pending death and all that I am going through, I decided it prudent to make arrangements in advance of his actual death.  So, I made an appointment at the mortuary and told the man on the phone what I wanted.

I arrived a little early to the appointment and was put in a room eerily similar to the one where we made my Dad's arrangements just a few short months ago.  While I waited, I searched around the offerings for urns, ash-art choices, etc.  I noticed their choices in that room were limited compared to what I had viewed in Virginia.

As the funeral director entered, we had an instant humorous connection and he made the process easier.  I was determined to stay light hearted and business-like rather than a weepy near-widow.  He seemed amazed.

I told him that I wanted a cremation with ashes split 5 ways.  He said that we needed to start with filling in all blanks on the death certificate form.  I knew all the information off the top of my head and we proceeded to the forms about the cremation itself.  First, the state requires the body to go to the crematorium in an appropriate box/casket. 

He pulled a list of prices for caskets ranging from $6800 down to $95.  He quickly pointed to the bottom of the page and recommended the $95 "fiberboard" box.  I must have had an unusual expression and he asked if there was a problem.  I said, "Is it ok to cremate my husband of 31 years in a cardboard box?"  He argued the fiberboard is not cardboard and that no one would see the box except for the mortuary and the crematorium.  The concept really bothered me and he picked up on the emotion and opted to show me pictures of the choices. 

I was right.  The recommended choice was similar to the many moving boxes we used over the years to move our household.  Plain, brown with no liner.  I giggled a bit as the picture was so awkward.  I asked that the next version of the casket priced at $295 looked like.  As he turned the page to show me the picture he said, " Its a brown box painted blue."  All of a sudden, the whole process was surreal and humorous. 

I switched the topic briefly to ask about the urn sitting on his desk.  He pointed out that it was a standard size.  He used that moment to twist the subject back to the brown box.  "Besides Ma'am, if you choose one of the fancier wood or metal caskets, they and the ashes don't fit in the urn here."  Really?  Ok, we will take the "fiberboard" casket.

The next portion of the form was about the location where the ashes would be stored or scattered.  I told him that part would be put in San Francisco Bay, part over Yosemite and split three ways into artwork for myself, Heather and Gary Jr.  He had one sculpture to choose from that was way too large for what I wanted.  We decided that I would find some online and send him the information as apparently, they have to split the ashes.

He then asked if Gary had any metal pieces in his body that we had to be aware of during the cremation.  I pictured the furnace encountering the metal and blowing or causing some type of injury to the workers.  I answered that he had a pin in his wrist and one in his ankle from a motorcycle accident years ago. He said, "Oh, nothing large like a rod?"  I finally asked why it was a problem. He answered that the small pins would not pose a problem.  He indicated that the large pieces of metal also don't fit in the urn and they have to sift them out at the crematorium.  Again, it was humorous as there is so much the commoner does not know about the process.

Then he asked if I would be bringing clothes to dress Gary in before the cremation.  I said, "Heck no.  Gary was an old hippie and would prefer to be naked!"  He understood and wrote "naked" in the form.

It was all done.  I walked away with a folder representing the cremation of my husband.  When he dies, Hospice can call the mortuary and they will pick him up.  I just have to pay at the time.

It is all surreal but I feel better knowing the decisions are done. 

After his death, we will have a memorial in Elk Grove and then spread the ashes in the Bay and the rest at his beloved Yosemite.